The Sea Turtles 911 Volunteer Internship Program (VIP) in Hawaii or China provides college students and young professionals hands-on experience working on the 'frontlines' of endangered species conservation and research, which has been featured in Yale University's magazine. Students gain unique experiences living on a tropical island immersed in Hawaiian or Chinese culture, working with marine animals, educating the public about endangered species conservation, and giving back to the community. The program is developed by marine turtle experts on the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and includes thorough instruction on sea turtle biology and conservation so that students may receive college credit from their university upon approval.
Interns will work under the supervision of our knowledgeable staff and once the intern has gained adequate instruction, they will be asked to perform many tasks independently or in teams. They can gain experience in all areas of the organization, but will maintain a focused area to develop through their own interests and creativity in one of four categories: education outreach, scientific research, public relations, or rehabilitation. This is designed to challenge interns to find their niche and passion to make a unique contribution to the conservation of marine turtles.
Interns in educational tourism tackle the challenges of creating effective programs which not only imparts information, but also inspires the participants to action. They maintain communication with other students, teachers, and the local community; create lesson plans, activities, and educational materials; and provide conservation education 'in the field' as well as in the classroom. By working with local schools and businesses, EDU interns promote marine conservation in the local community at public events, such as community beach clean-ups, to raise awareness on how important sea turtles are to our planet and the threats they are currently facing.
EDU interns will contribute to the development and implementation of events and educational programs, including community events, volunteer recruitment and training, school field trips and visits, and ecotourism programs. They will work with tour agencies to develop and implement ecotourism itineraries for tourists interested in voluntourism, green travel, and wildlife animals, with the ultimate goal of cultivating community support for sea turtle conservation. Through tourism, EDU interns will have the opportunity to educate more people about the challenges in protecting sea turtles and possible solutions to address them. In Hawaii, sea turtles can be frequently seen in both the near shore waters and on land along coastal beaches, and these higher rates of direct encounters with people provide immediate meaningful experiences, lending opportunities for EDU interns to educate tourists on the conservation issues threatening their survival. In China, interns will be able to educate tourists who visit sea turtle patients at our rescue centers.
EDU interns working in this area would help develop and implement education programs, activities, and events, in the local community or hotel resorts. Depending on the location, this could include providing guests with sea turtle conservation presentations, activities, events, and eco tours. Furthermore, interns may assist in building partnerships with organizations, governments, media, and celebrities, to support conservation activities and events. Some of our past events include:
To advance sea turtle conservation, conducting research in all aspects of the biology of sea turtles is important to the scientific community, management agencies, and conservation organizations throughout the world. RA interns will contribute to the expansion of sea turtle conservation through scientific investigations. Interns are encouraged to design new research projects or work on current research projects with graduate students and professors.
Around the world, sea turtles only come ashore on beaches to lay eggs; however, in addition to egg laying, sea turtles in Hawaii naturally rest on beaches too. This terrestrial basking behavior is not quite understood; therefore, interns in Hawaii have the unique opportunity to monitor this unique behavioral adaption, not commonly observed globally. Since the scales on each side of a sea turtle's head and flippers are unique like fingerprints of humans, RA interns in Hawaii will be involved in computer assisted Photo-ID (PID) to re-identify individual sea turtles, monitoring movement trends and habitat use. Read this sea turtle photo-identification research paper for more details.
RA interns in China will be trained in sea turtle research techniques such as tissue biopsy, necropsy, satellite tagging, and blood sampling. Watch our video in which a NOAA scientist trains our team on how to draw blood from a sea turtle. Our research team has deployed satellite tracking tags to learn more about sea turtle migrations - where they breed, where they eat, and where they are spending most of their time so that we can support government policies to establish marine protected areas to save them. With our research partners from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), City University of Hong Kong, and Hainan Normal University, we have published research on satellite tracking of sea turtles. Aside from conducting research in the field or lab, it is essential that young scientists hone their ability to communicate their research ideas and findings through scientific writing. RA interns will spend time reviewing literature, analyzing data, and writing papers for possible publication or project proposals for research grants.
U.S. Ambassador and Senator Max Baucus (left) volunteers for Sea Turtles 911.
Interviewing NBA basketball celebrity Yao Ming (right) to raise public awareness.
Since the dinosaur age, sea turtles have lived through the times of many civilizations, accumulating cultural value for many communities around the world. This makes the species an ideal medium for international media, celebrities, and renowned leaders, to inspire wildlife oceanic appreciation amongst people from different cultural backgrounds. As marine turtles naturally migrate through waters of many countries, defying political and geographic boundaries, they act as the natural ambassadors of the world, capable of uniting different countries with the common goal of saving sea turtles. At the highest national levels, the U.S. Department of State and China's Central Government supports Sea Turtles 911 and Hainan Normal University through the U.S.-China EcoPartnership to advance sea turtle conservation to international importance, thereby opening the doors to worldwide recognition. Under the auspices of the bilateral partnership, interns will engage in various methods of marketing communications to raise public awareness for sea turtle protection and conservation globally.
Sea turtles are naturally charismatic species that attract good public attention for their gentle and cute appeal. Supporting sea turtle conservation has the great potential to influence the public image of individuals and branding of organizations. MARCOM interns will leverage the natural appeal of sea turtles as a flagship species to raise funds and public awareness for marine conservation. Interns will develop and implement social media marketing campaigns on various platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They will create media content, including photos and videos, to advance the project's public communications message. MARCOM interns may communicate with news agencies and assist in developing press releases to highlight events and project milestones. Essentially, MARCOM interns will become the voice for the sea turtles, speaking for the increased protection and conservation of the species through public communications as one of the organization's spokesperson. In the past, interns have worked with celebrities and professional journalists from international media organizations:
VET interns in China will be trained in sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation, and husbandry. Interns will assist in administering medical treatments to our injured sea turtle patients, including fluid therapy, antibiotic injections, tube feeding, nutritional supplements, X-rays, and physical therapy. Periodically, interns will take blood samples from all of the sea turtles in our care, prepare samples for health assessment, and analyze clinical results to adjust medical treatments. Furthermore, interns will aid in the daily husbandry of sea turtles, including feeding, cleaning, hospital upkeep, and overall care for the turtles. They may have the opportunity to observe and assist during surgical procedures, such as the minimally invasive surgery, laparoscopy.
Unlike interns in China, VET interns in Hawaii will not have direct contact with sick and injured sea turtles. They will only observe techniques through live video of our sea turtle rescue operations in China or possible visits to local veterinary hospitals. VET interns in Hawaii can still assist in formulating medical treatment plans, nutrition and dietary supplements, and keep track of feed and medical logs of our sick and injured sea turtles in China. Because our rescued sea turtles are in China, VET interns have easy access to Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) and could work with Chinese practitioners on alternative methods of improving the overall quality of care for our sea turtle patients. Read this Fox News article about how acupuncture can help treat sick sea turtles. It is important for all VET interns to be knowledgeable of the human imposed threats that sea turtles face, and what better way than aiding sea turtles in their rescue and recovery.
Sea Turtles 911 provides interns with the unique opportunity to live and work on the tropical island of Hainan or Hawaii for a grassroots conservation organization. Thorough training and instruction will be provided at the beginning of each intern's term, and guidance provided throughout. Interns should be available to work full-time; they are expected to be responsible for maintaining regular communication with other organizational volunteers to work as a team and independently. Expectations will depend on where your internship takes place:
|Hawaii, USA||Hainan, China||Gain field assistant experience as you record observations of sea turtles and their habitats in natural environments||Gain exotic animal handling and husbandry experience as you work in direct hands-on contact with sea turtles|
|Educate community and tourists as a scientific interpreter as you protect sea turtles from public harassment||Learn rehabilitation techniques as you assist in medical treatments and procedures to rescue sick and injured turtles|
|Hone your data analysis and research writing skills as you work on sea turtle research publications||Gain sea turtle research skills by training in hands-on techniques and methods to investigate marine turtles|
|Develop programming experience as you coordinate ecotourism and citizen scientist programs with the tourism industry||Gain international work experience in program coordination as you implement education programs at local hotels and schools|
|Advance your communication and writing skills as you engage in public relations, fundraising, social media, grant writing, and event planning||Experience teaching English as a second language (ESL) to Chinese students, while educating them on sea turtle conservation|
|Practice Chinese, Japanese, and Korean with our international volunteers online so you can educate Asian tourists in Hawaii||Immerse in Chinese culture and learn Mandarin with native speakers through daily face-to-face communication in China|
|Discover Hawaii and Polynesian culture as you build value through conducting public outreach activities for sea turtles||Discover China and Chinese culture as you conduct public outreach activities for ocean awareness and sea turtles|
For interns in Hawaii, the accessibility of nature and the Aloha spirit of the Polynesian culture is part of Hawaii's allure but it is important to approach this opportunity with a realistic attitude. Interns can expect to gain field experience observing behaviors of endangered sea turtles from the beach, from the water, and even from the sky (with drones); they will not be directly touching the turtles since we want to keep nature undisturbed as much as possible. The frequency of sea turtle sightings in Hawaii's natural environment provides increased encounters with wild sea turtles, which is not often available anywhere else in the world.
For interns in China, they should be ready to live within a very different cultural setting. China can be a very rewarding experience for those who have an open mind and a willingness to be adventurous! But there are cultural differences that can lead to challenges, which allow you to gain perspectives from the eyes of an entirely different culture. Read about the experience of a past intern from Oregon State University. Interns can expect to gain rehabilitation experience working hands-on with endangered sea turtles, an experience not often available for students in the U.S.
Applicants must have a sense of adventure, be comfortable in new cultures and be able to work efficiently with others. Although interns will have projects they will be focusing on during their term, much of their day-to-day work will originate on an as-needed and opportunity basis. 'Island Time' dictates plans may change frequently with irregular schedules becoming normal. Interns must be flexible and relaxed to the ever-changing requirements of the organization, its program participants, and its partners in conservation.
NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming, student of Shanghai Jiaotong University, receives certificate from Sea Turtles 911.
Since we are a non-profit charity, we rely on program fees to cover the costs of the internship for student volunteers who wish to be part of the journey to save sea turtles. The amount of the program fee varies depending on whether students require our assistance in providing housing, meals, and transportation. Living on a tropical island can be expensive, so we try to work with students to minimize costs and expenses. Since 2010, students have received scholarships to enroll in the Sea Turtles 911 internship program, such as from Oregon State University. Other scholarship opportunities could also help fund this program, such as through Harvard University's Office of Career Services or the U.S.-China Sea Turtle Conservation Scholarship.
Upon completion of the program, graduated students will receive an official certificate with an unique quick response (QR) code, which can be scanned to verify authenticity of the document. Student graduates can also have their names listed on our website, which further confirms their participation in the program when they list this work experience on their resume for future job opportunities.
Dive shops offering recreational diving is common on the islands, allowing students in their personal spare time to have the option of getting an additional, separate certification for scuba diving from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). In-water experiences could be inspirational for students. "Why is it that scuba divers and surfers are some of the strongest advocates of ocean conservation? Because they've spent time in and around the ocean, and they've personally seen the beauty, the fragility, and even the degradation of our planet's blue heart." -Sylvia Earle, Time Magazine's first hero of the planet, NOAA's first female chief scientist, and TED talk prize winner
Sylvia Earle and Frederick Yeh, Founding Director of Sea Turtles 911.
To apply for this volunteer internship, complete the Program Registration Form and send your resume and cover letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The program requires a minimum term of eight (8) weeks with acceptance open throughout the year. Usually, summer session starts in June; Fall session starts in September; and spring session starts in January or February. In your cover letter, please indicate which location (Hawaii or China) and which session (Summer, Fall, or Spring) you are interested in.
Since the field of environmental protection encompasses many areas of expertise, students with career interests which expand into a variety of fields are encouraged to apply. Environmental degradation and loss of species in today's world is occurring at an alarming rate, making it imperative that governments and industries act now to reverse the damage being done to our planet. Many companies and agencies look for students with distinct knowledge and experience in conservation to integrate into their long-term goals of sustainable growth and social responsibility. As living legend Sylvia Earle asked, "Our near and distant predecessors might be forgiven for exterminating the last woolly mammoth, the ultimate dodo, the final sea cow, and the last living monk seal for lack of understanding the consequences of their actions. But who will forgive us if we fail to learn from past and present experiences, to forge new values, new relationships, a new level of respect for the natural systems that keep us alive?"